I have a confession to make: I don’t know how to swim. Correction, I didn’t know how to swim. Today marks my second swimming lesson (spoiler alert- I didn’t drown!). For my nearly 4 decades of life I have been afraid to learn how to swim due to what many would say is an irrational fear of water. How did this happen you might ask? Why wasn’t I forced to learn how to swim like most young people? I’m not sure. The easy explanation would be to blame my parents (ha!). But, since at least 2 of my siblings know how to swim and learned at a young age, I guess that’s not the best excuse. Really what it boils down to is my own stubbornness and fear. I’ve consistently chosen comfort over courage in this area of my life.
Over time, this lack of courage to learn how to swim evolved into a deeply entrenched since of complacency. I’d just simply accepted that I would never learn. To be honest, while I told people I was fine with it, I wasn’t. I was a little embarrassed each time I had to admit that nope, I can’t swim. I’ve even had well-intentioned friends and co-workers offer to teach me over the years. But, you know, life happened. I never got around to it. And I was fine with it, until recently.
That’s what makes this year so interesting, I’ve developed a greater sense of urgency to get around to the things I’ve been putting off. This year I challenged myself to do a few of the things on my growth list that I’ve been afraid to prioritize because they just seemed too big. Each year I try to set goals that will stretch me, help me to grow in some area, but usually these are goals in the area of my career, finances, health, or even marriage. These goals help me to have incremental progress over time, like exercising 3 times a week for 52 straight weeks or at least 1 date night a month for 12 straight months. Important goals, but nothing scary once you’ve established the right routines to make it happen. This process has served me well over the years as I can look back and really see the compounded effect of consistently setting and pursuing goals. Yet, but with a few exceptions, I’ve rarely set goals that I would say actually scared me. Until now.
I believe most people have some sort of list (I call mine a growth list, others refer to it as a bucket list), that truly excites them and speaks to who they want to become as a person. At the top of my planner each day I recite the words, be intentional, grow daily, and choose grace. This is my mantra of the type of person I’m becoming. All of my wildest dreams point to becoming a leader who leads with intention and dares greatly despite the obstacles. Another quote that love, (it’s my signature line in my email) is, we become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day (Richard Scott). 2020 has become a year of identifying areas where I want to practice daring greatly, and swimming happened to be one of them.
There’s another development though that has also factored into my decision to learn how to swim. Over the past 2 years, each of my oldest three daughters have all now taken swimming lessons. My wife knows how to swim. That just leaves me and the one year old left. I wasn’t about to be the only one in my house who couldn’t swim. I’m already the only male, I couldn’t be left out of something else!
So, I’m learning how to swim, and while during the first session I was pretty scared, it’s something now that I look forward to each week. It’s funny how things work out when you make a decision to pursue something new, perhaps a bit risky, and step into the unknown. One step leads to several others and before you know it, you’re actually walking into the thing that perhaps you once feared would never happen. There’s a great Nelson Mandela quote, courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. That’s what I’m realizing as I walk this path of learning to swim. Once I’d written it down as a goal: swim 100 laps solo by June 1st (it’s got all of those SMARTER elements right?), taking the first step became clearer. I needed an instructor and I needed to pay for the classes immediately. Then, it needed to live on my calendar weekly. Then, I had to show up for my first class. One uncomfortable step at time.
Imagine what other big dreams learning to swim might have a trickle effect for. After all, courage is contagious.